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Ekskubalauron, Logopandecteision, &c.

jueves, 17 de mayo de 2012

Ekskubalauron, Logopandecteision, &c.

From The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature. (5. The Civil War and Commonwealth Era). Ed. David Loewenstein and Janel Mueller. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. 2004. Joshua Scodel's chapter "25. Alternative Sites for Literature," 763-89, ends with Urquhart, after dealing with Browne.

A more ebullient mingling of the learned and popular enlivens the works of the Scotsman Thomas Urquhart, whosse Englishing of Rabelais (1653) is the period's most successful translation of fiction. Urquhart deftly renders Rabelais's linguistic play—extravagant panegyric and invective; imaginary languages; lists of nouns, verbs or adjectives conveying the richness of life and of learning; high-spirited mixtures of arcane coinages and the demotic, sometimes obscene. Urquhart can even outdo Rabelais with longer lists of derogatory or commendatory epithets. Urqhart suffered imprisonment and financial ruin for siding with the King and against Scottish Presbyterianism. Energised by his likemindedness with his original, he expertly conveys the Frenchman's exuberant vision of pleasure based on Christian freedom and on drinking as a festive rite as well as his attacks on religious hypocrisy, which chimed with Urquhart's detestation of Presbyterian rigour.
     Urquhart's original composition, Ekskubalauron, The Discovery of a Most Exquisite Jewel (1652), also sports Rabelaisian linguistic inventiveness (its titular coinage, meaning 'gold out of dung', is characteristic). Urquhart relieves a high style—periodic sentences with numerous adjectives and adverbial phrases, aureate doublets and bizarrely learned coinages—with slang, especially in invective, attacking his critics as 'pristinary lobcocks' and 'archaeomanetick coxcombs'. Urquhart petitions Parliament to free him and to return his property as recompense for his universal language scheme. His scheme differs from that of more sober contemporaries in focusing not upon the precise rendering of 'things' but rather upon the language's 'copiousness' and generative capacity, superior to the 'witty compositions' which Urquhart himself produces in his macaronic English. (68)
     Ekskubalauron also extensively celebrates Scottish achivements in arms and arts (Urquhart's own points of pride); its centrepiece is the panegyric upon the 'ever-renowned' James Crichton (1560-82), a superlative swordsman, sportsman (the occasion for a Rabelaisian list of sports), debater, mime of all professions (the opportunity of another bravura inventory) and lover. This setpiece celebrates and seeks the comic sublime: Crichton's swordplay arouses spectators' 'ravishment' and his wordplay produces auditors' 'transported, disparpled, and sublimated fancies'. Urquhart's own copious catalogue of Crichton's 'jeers, squibs, flouts, buls, quips, taunts, whims, jests, clinches, gybes, mokes, jerks' similarity seeks to mesmerise. In an uproarious display of textual sexuality, Urquhart uses outlandish coinages and double entendres to describe Crichton's lovemaking: the 'intermutual unlimitedness' of the lovers' arousing 'visuriency' and 'tacturiency' culminate in Crichton's 'luxiriousness to erect a gnomon on her orhizontal dyal' and his mistress's 'hirquitaliency at the elevation of the pole of his microcosme'. (69 [sic]). Obliquity skirts vulgarity, but the linguistic strain also comically conveys lovers' non-linguistic, bodily communication. Urquhart's fanciful genius stands as a final, salutary reminder that authors of the 1640s and 1650s often escape general trends of the period—as many of those discussed here earnestly sought to do.

(68). Thomas Urquhart, The Jewel, ed. R. S. D. Jack and R. J. Lyall (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1983), pp. 71-2, 61, 67.
(69). Ibid.,pp. 125, 106, 114, 124.


Una recreación del personaje de Urqhuart y sus obras puede leerse en el cuento de Alasdair Gray "Logopandocy", incluido en Unlikely Stories, Mostly (Edinburgo: Canongate, 1983). Subtitulado

"The Secret and Apocryphal Diurnal of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie, Knight, Recently Discovered and Published Against the Author's Expressed Will & Command   Instruction and Reformation of the Brittanic League of Commonwealths; Wherein is recorded a dialogue with the late Protector Cromwell's Latin secretary, which neatly unfolds a scheme to repair the divided Nature of Man by rationally reintegering Gods Gift of Tongues to Adam by a verboradical appliancing of Nepers logarithms to the grammar of an Asiatick people, thought to be the lost tribe of Israel, whose language predates the Babylonic Cataclysm; With auxiliary matter vindicating the grandeur of SCOTLAND from the foul infamy whereinto the Rigid Presbyterian party of that nation, out of their covetousness and their overweening ambition, that most dissembledly involved it."

—Por lo cual se aprecia una secuencia de extravagancia verbal y emulación inspiratoria que va de Rabelais a Gray. Se pasa relación a las polémicas y obras de Urquhart, que si no son apócrifas merecerían serlo (The Trissotetras, Ttantoxronoxanon, Isoplasfonikon, Foinixpankromata, Alethalembikon, Logopandecteision), y un encuentro este sí apócrifo con el Secretario de Estado John Milton, en la cárcel del castillo de Windsor. En el Logopandecteision, Urquhart propone un nuevo lenguaje universal y artificial, convencido de que "Only a multiverbal logpandocy can express without distorting the Dialogues of Plato, Laws of Justinian, Romances of Ariosto, and what is still to be retrieved from the languages of East and West Indians, the Civil Aztecs, Toltecs, Japaneses and Chineses" (Gray 173). Es un lenguaje éste que recuerda al lenguaje significativo de John Wilkins, sobre el que escribía Borges: un lenguaje en el que las raíces de las palabras serían taxonómicas y significativas, y el significado no sería por tanto arbitrario sino sistemáticamente asociado a la morfología de las palabras: "The student of my language is taught very few and simple words, and these as example only, for he is given (to be metaphorickal) the bricks wherewith any world he needs may be builded, besides a grammer by which these worlds may be swiftly presented to the understanding of an instructed fellow" (Gray 176). Lamentablemente, cuando llega la hora de describir este lenguaje en el cuento de Gray, una nota nos dice que

************************************************************************* HERE A GREAT PART OF THE MANUSCRIPT HAS BEEN EATEN BY MICE *******************************

Otra propuesta de lenguaje artificial aparecía en el Ekskukubalauron. El Urquhart histórico emigró de su tierra y se pierde en la niebla de la historia al final de su vida; el de Gray termina viajando por Oriente, en busca de una lengua que se aproxime a su lengua universal soñada. Sin duda la afición del autor a los neologismos de raíz griega es su manera de acercar el inglés al sueño de una lengua que sea autoexplicativa... aunque el efecto a veces es más bien el contrario. Una afición parecida a la experimentación verbal, a la extravagancia intelectual y al lenguaje cratílico aparece en otro personaje de Unlikely Stories, Mostly— Pollard, el narrador de "Prometheus". Así comenta su historial literario-filosófico:

"My books had suffered from an absence of agreement upon how to regard them. In the thirties, the only period when I associated with a political movement, my support of the National Front led the surrealists and left wing generally to regard the Sacred Sociology as a satire against religion in the fashion of Anatole France; but Claudel called it a grand heresy revealing the truth through the agony of estrangement, Celine praised it as hilarious anti-semitic comedy, and Saint-Exupéry noticed that it did not seek to deface or replace the scriptures, but to be bound in with them. In the forties the existentialists had just begun to bracket me with Kierkegaard when I printed A Child's Plainchant Dictionary of Abstractions. This was thought an inept satire against dictionaries adn final proof that I was not a serious thinker. Twelve years later a disciple of Levi-Strauss discovered that, though printed as prose, each definition in my dictionary was a pattern of assonance, dissonance, half-rhyme and alliteration invoking the emotions upon which words like truth, government, distaste and freedom depend for their meanings. My definition of digestion, for example, if spoken aloud, soothes stomaches suffereng from indigestion. This realization brought me the reverence of the structuralists who now used my dictionary as a text in three universities. I was often quoted in controversies surrounding the American linguist, Chomsky. It seemed that among my unopened mail lay an invitation to join the French Academy and the offer of a Nobel prize for literature. There was widespread speculation about my current work. My first two books were of different kinds and I still pursued the habits of study which had produced them. It was noted that five years earlier I had begun subscribing to a journal devoted to classical Greek researches. All things considered, there was a chance that, before the century ended, my name might be attached to a metro terminus." (Gray, Unlikely Stories, Mostly, 204-5).

Por su parte, Gray es el autor de curiosas novelas ilustradas por él como Lanark o Poor Things, un tanto escoradas hacia la sátira menipea, y de una deliciosa antología de prólogos, The Book of Prefaces, que merece esta alabanza apócrifa de Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty: "Reverence the cheese-like brain that feeds you with these trifling jollities"

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